The excitement in the air every time Javier Baez steps to the plate at Wrigley Field is palpable.
I have witnessed this firsthand twice in the last week and I have to admit, I’ve never felt something quite like it at the Friendly Confines. On Wednesday night, we saw just why the crowd stops to watch when number 9 steps up to the dish, as he clubbed his first Wrigley Field home run – depositing a pitch onto Waveband Avenue.
The future is bright.
So far this month, Baez has four home runs – but one more statistic jumps off the page: strikeouts.
In 41 at-bats since his call-up, the 21-year-old infielder has struck out 13 times – meaning he’s struck out 31.7 percent of the time, including one three-strikeout game and two four-strikeout games, including Thursday’s loss to Milwaukee, when he went 0-for-4 in the number two hole.
With Triple-A Iowa this season, Baez struck out 69 times in 240 at-bats, which accounts to roughly 28.7 percent of the time. Last season, between Advanced Class-A Daytona and Double-A Tennessee, he struck out 147 times in 577 at-bats spanning 130 games, again coming out to 25 percent of the time.
According to FanGraphs, the average big league hitter strikes out approximately 18.5 percent. Baez’s current rate would be considered ‘awful’ by their standards, but something to keep in mind is the Cubs’ number two overall prospect is still just 21 – he doesn’t even turn 22 until December.
The rest of this season, which by all accounts is a lost cause for the club record-wise, is for Baez to learn. He will learn to adjust to the big league lifestyle and learn to adjust his approach at the plate on a game-in-game-out basis. As Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein noted shortly after he was promoted, the team “will do everything we can to protect (Baez), including trying to lay out reasonable expectations” for success.
Baez’s arrival in Chicago has marked the beginning of the end – at least in terms of the multi-year rebuilding effort – but it is important to remember. Prospects take time to adjust (most of the time) – and Javier Baez is no different.
He’ll learn. And when he does, watch out.